09/12/2013 01:26 EDT | Updated 11/12/2013 05:12 EST

Nanos Number: Fewer Canadians Want Closer Security With U.S.


Twelve years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, fewer Canadians say the U.S. and Canada should move towards closer cooperation on national security.

A survey by Nanos Research and the State University of New York at Buffalo, conducted as the United States looks to its allies for support for a military strike against Syria, found support among Canadians for closer cooperation on national security with the U.S. was down significantly from just one year ago.

Respondents were asked, "In terms of national security (i.e. NATO, the United Nations), should Canada and the U.S. be moving towards greater and closer cooperation, or should they be maintaining separate national security policies and priorities?"

Forty-five per cent of respondents said Canada and the U.S. should move towards greater cooperation. That's down nine points from 2012 and 19 points from 2005.

Twenty per cent thought policies and priorities should stay the same, while 32 per cent want separate policies, up 10 points from 2005.

The Nanos-UB North American Monitor Tracking Study was made up of 1,000 randomly selected Canadians recruited by telephone using live agents who then administered an online survey. It was conducted Aug. 18 to 22. It is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

"The further away we get from 9/11, the less appetite to cooperate with the United States on national security issues," Nik Nanos said on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Wednesday.

Nanos said the other striking thing about the numbers is the rise in Canadians who want to see separate security policies, which could be good news for the New Democrats. In the past, the party has maintained that Canada needs to "chart its own course" on security.

Nanos says these numbers show a drift in Canada's most important foreign policy relationship.

"One of the challenges with the Harper government is that it's been tactical and not strategic, focussing on specific things as opposed to focussing on the broader relationship and making sure it works," Nanos said.

The past few years have seen a series of irritants and disagreements in the Canada-U.S. relationship, from delayed approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, to the border and trade, and these numbers reflect that, Nanos said.

Canadians are also feeling distance from the U.S. when it comes to human rights.

Respondents were asked which country is closest to Canada in terms of human rights; 27 per cent ranked the U.S. as their number one response. That is down 22 points from last year.

Britain was first with 44 per cent, 14 per cent listed Germany as closest to Canada on human rights and 9 per cent said France.

Nanos called these results a "statistical punch in the gut" for Obama, and believes Syria has been a "trigger point."

The crisis in Syria and Obama's response has been something the U.S. president has had to own, and these latest numbers show his approach is having a negative impact on how Canadians see the United States on human rights, Nanos said.

Nik Nanos digs beneath the numbers with CBC News Network's Power & Politics to get to the political, economic and social forces that shape our lives. Recognized as one of Canada's top research experts, Nanos provides numbers-driven counsel to senior executives and major organizations. He leads the analyst team at Nanos, is a Fellow of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association and a Research Associate Professor with SUNY (Buffalo).

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